Background Switcher (Hidden)

Meet Debby Kaspari

Sunday, June 6, 2010

a later DK antbird painting, but you get the idea. Shazzam!

I first became aware of Debby Kaspari (then Debby Cotter) when a bitchin' antbird illustration, lush with color and strong of drawing, showed up in an issue of Bird Watcher's Digest, the magazine my husband edits, and the whole family publishes. I remember, in fact, where I was standing when I opened the issue and saw the double-page spread--in the old production room where there were little waxed lines of type stuck to everything. It was that long ago. Probably 1992, because we weren't married yet. And my head snapped back, because nothing computed. How could I have missed her? Who WAS this woman who could paint antbirds so beautifully, and why didn't I know her name and her work before Bill did? I whirled around and accosted my editor husband-to-be. "Who did this? Who is she? How did you find her?"

He started talking, and I gathered little scraps out of the cascade of words. I remember hearing "painter" and "sculptor" and "bluegrass banjo player" and "she's in a band" and then my eyes rolled back in my head and lemons came up where my eyeballs should be like a cartoon slot machine and I remember thinking, "Oh, great. He's going to fall in love with this fabulous California mystery girl who paints antbirds, just like he fell in love with me when I started painting for BWD and then what??"

Well, that didn't happen, probably because I'd met him in person first, and I gradually got used to the idea that there was this painter/draftsman/sculptor/musician out there and then she sent Bill a CD, "Heart's Desire" of her San Francisco bluegrass band, The All Girl Boys,

and the picture of the beautiful brunette in the middle "all dipped in girl dip," as she put it, set me back another couple months...but I eventually got over it. And despite my Leonine fragility we became friends, fast friends and she came out to visit us in Ohio and we threw a summer music party in her honor and Debby played bitchin' banjo breaks on tunes like "Don't Fear the Reaper." This is a song which, having always made her own music instead of blowing out her ears to rock like the rest of us, she had never heard. Bill and I still marvel at that. And I loved her, as I knew I would.

As the Internet slowly loomed up and infiltrated our lives I could keep up with Debby's doings on her web site. I got to see her every now and then, twice, in fact, at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's "Birds in Art" show. Here we are, having our pictures taken in Wisconsin with dear friend, pastel artist Cindy House.

She's painted a bunch of covers for Bird Watcher's Digest--a mockingbird in moonlight; a rufous hummingbird staring a long-eared owl in the face; a painted bunting on cannas; three rubythroats in bougainvillea... We invited her out for an Artist's Gathering at our place and she was enfolded into the loving and supportive arms of our bird-painting artist friends. The emails fly thick and fast, with jpegs, and we pass critiques and praise back and forth through the electrons. We are connected, and we share each other's victories and sorrows alike. Debby's drawings and paintings always take my breath away. I would love to be able to draw like that.

So here's a little gallery, because I know it's hard to draw yourself away to another web site. I've dragged these off Go there for more.

Macaws over a giant ceiba tree. Pastel and graphite.

Orange-chinned parakeets, demolishing mangoes. Pastel and graphite.

Petersham, Massachusetts. Watercolor, plein air (done on the spot).

Did I mention Debby also teaches plein air drawing?Well, she does. Just another thing she does I'd be scared stiff to try.

Get a load of her line.
Wild turkeys, from life.

Furnariids, antbirds, honeycreepers, swallow tanagers...she's drawing so fast and furiously that she draws one bird over another. From life, Peru.

Coati studies. Deb's mammals just blow me away. Has she got the beady-eyed squint down or what?
Buttress roots, drawn on site. Just another of the things that scares me about Deb. She can sit for two days in one spot and produce something like this. We have to be careful when we're hiking because she might plop herself down and pull out her sketchbook and get all lost in tree roots or bark and then we'd have to bring her water and sandwiches until she'd recorded every last beautiful convolution.

Like the bark of this cottonwood in Oklahoma last month. She kind of murmured when she saw it and started walking toward it.
And before Tim and I knew it she was hugging that tree and I grabbed my camera because candid photos of actual tree huggers are rare.

To draw something is to love it. Gotcha!

So now you know just a little bit of why I love Debby Kaspari.


Wow. Now I love her too. Think she can handle all this lovin'? Great post.

Daaaang...I'd been to Debbie's website before but guess I need to revisit it more often for inspiration! Just plain gorgeous work. Her works in pastel are especially impressive--great detail with what usually seems to be such an imprecise medium.

This past week I remembered you writing about sketching prairie chickens together in Oklahoma, when I discovered a pair of green herons building a nest at the pond of the nature center where I work. Thinking "What Would JZ Do?" I plunked down and started sketching them. You and Debbie make it look so easy! (I'm guess a scope is a little easier to work with than just binoculars, but still!)

You're both wonderful inspiration, and I'm very glad that two such talented people have formed an awesome friendship!

A real life tree hugger and a wonderful artist, too. She is definitely incredible. Thanks for introducing her.

Two peas in a pod, I think - the two of you!

I do love a true tree hugger!!

talent attracts talent

"When I met Debby", could be a book of essays from her cadre of friends. She is so supremely versatile that one would believe Debby is fictional hero like Buckaroo Banzai. I can unequivocally say she is the most multi-talented person I know and I know talent! I am happy to say I am a friend one who has heard her play, sing, saw her paint, sculpt, watched bird land on her head (because the birds are all her friends as well) and spent and the most pleasant time conversing with her.

A beautiful tribute to Debbie! You are a great friend to write such a lovely piece and it's very well timed.

I hold you both in admiration and hope one day to wander down your same path.

I hugged a juniper tree yesterday! which was a hard thing to do because I couldn't actually crawl through the branches to its trunk. and it was just me, so no picture. Lovely paintings and sketches.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

The boundless talent both of you have for art, writing, music, and more is just stunning ! Thanks for introducing us to Debby Kaspari.
The CD "Heart's Desire" from The All Girl Boys is really fine bluegrass. I'm especially enjoying Debby's banjo picking.

Wow! You two are very inspirational. I must admit though that I feel like a giant S L U G compared to you two. Must get my act together and SEIZE THE DAY!!

Hope you are having fun at P&P...

I found Debby through TR Ryan and I love her art also. Very nice post. You made me laugh when you wrote about your fear that Bill would love her instread of you! I love how human and honest you are Julie. And as for Debi, I would hug that tree too! I love cottonwood trees. I have a favorite one on the banks of the Bear River in Evanston, WY that I have hugged just like that and also tried to draw that lucious bark!

[Back to Top]